Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Internet Lives!

Michigan Expats – News - See All News

By John Galt

As my colleague Mr Sig pointed out in an earlier post, the future of Michigan’s economy may very well be in online telecommuting. Unfortunately, there are still huge swaths of Michigan without high speed internet service. Well, I think I have a solution.

First, let me say that I am completely addicted to the internet. It is one of those indispensable luxuries which I think would be a deal-breaker if high speed internet was not available at a prospective place of residence. That is why I have such a personal investment in this post and I am so excited to share it with you.

Twice this past year I have heard sad tales of internet barrenness in Michigan. First, my wife’s family is from a small town just outside Ann Arbor. At only 20 minutes from the UM campus, it is certainly not what I would consider particularly rural. That’s why it is a bit puzzling to me that Comcast is unavailable there, and they cannot get DSL because “all the circuits are full”. So, when all other options failed, they had no choice but to continue to use the old standby of AOL dialup. To me, that is just unacceptable.

Another example is a family friend who lives in a rural part of Northern Michigan. In this case, I am not surprised that no wired utilities are able to provide internet service. So, being a tech nerd like myself, this man has taken to installing the only high speed internet option available to huge portions of the country: satellite. In his case, he is using Wild Blue, which he claims is better than Hughes Net, but still not very good. In both cases, the installation costs can be steep and the contract is long. Neither are very good options.

Now, there is a better way.

About a week ago, the wireless company Virgin Mobile (a subsidiary of Sprint) announced that they are offering an UNLIMITED 3G cellular data plan, WITHOUT a contract for $40 a month. This means that anyone who is in their coverage area can easily get DSL-type speeds for a very affordable price, and moreover the service can be turned on and off as needed without penalty (great for seasonal cabins).  No more worrying about overage fees or contracts like other carriers; it can be used just like a regular home internet connection.

Now, here is the best part, and this is something you are not likeVMly to hear anywhere else. While it is true that their coverage area is limited in some areas, someone with a bit of technical knowledge can add a medium range or long range antenna to one of their internet devices, which if done properly, can reach a tower nearly 100 miles away. Now, people even on the edge of the service area have  access to high speed internet in their home at a great price. [Note: Sorry U.P., there isn’t any Sprint/Virgin service up there, so you are still stuck with dialup or satellite.]

I couldn’t be happier about this. I can tell you that if I were to move to a more rural area where cable or DSL are not available, this would be the first thing I would install. Let me know what you think of this in the comments below. And, if this information helped you save money and make your life better, consider donating to help us keep this site going.


  1. I'm really becoming a fan of this Virgin mobile company. I cannot wait until November when my VZ contract expires. These pre-paid or no-contract deals are definitely the way to go.

    I still don't understand why satellite internet is so expensive. Sending HD video signals to satellite TV customers takes about 10 Megabits. Is it really that hard to pump the same speeds and carry IP based streams rather than Video signals? I mean, I was seeing Direct TV in Ecuador - so once it is set up, you can pump it out to literally everyone in the world. Not only would satellite solve northern michigan's issues, but also all of rural america and also developing countries. I suppose figuring out what is really blocking satellite internet technology from offering 10 Mbps to all is worth digging into.

  2. If you're looking at prepaid phones, check out net10, which is what I use. Cheapest available, great coverage and qwerty phones.

  3. Would be great if you traveled a lot. You would always have internet!